Taking care of your lawn does not have to always involve soil testing, liming or fertilizing. Some of the simple lawn care methods are actually the most crucial to a continuously thriving and healthy lawn that grows without brown patches, weed infestations or other problems. The odds are good that you are doing these tasks already; but are you doing them the right way?
Mowing your lawn at an appropriate height lessens its susceptibility to weed infestations and heightens its ability to retain moisture in summer. When cutting the grass, leave it sufficiently tall to photosynthesize and make the sugars it requires for growing vigorously above-ground and developing an extensive, deep root system below. As a general rule of thumb, during spring and fall you should mow the grass at a height of 2.0 to 2.5 inches; let it grow taller in the summer months and mow it at a height of 2.5 to 3.0 inches. The one exception is tall fescue, which you should mow at a height of 2.5 to 3.0 inches year round.
Thatch commonly forms if your lawn consists of Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue. It consists of grass roots---living and dead---and also stem portions that grow above-ground as opposed to below the soil. The ideal thatch thickness is a ½ inch layer. Allowing it to grow thicker than this causes more grass seeds to root above-ground, which can place the lawn in danger of dying off during times of drought or insect attack. Rake the thatch frequently to lightly remove buildup; this limits the damage to the grass roots and encourages more below-ground growth. Additionally, it allows water and fertilizer to penetrate into the ground more efficiently.
Water restrictions in some parts of the country dictate how often lawns and landscapes may be watered. Even with water saving schemes in place, it is possible to over-water a lawn. For example, to support cool season grass' ability to go dormant in the heat of the summer, it should receive no more than about 1.5 inches of water each week. As a general rule of thumb, if you can walk across your dry lawn, return to the porch and still see the foot prints after a couple of minutes, it is time to water: your grass is wilted to the point that it cannot spring back from being pressed down.
Water rarely but do it extensively, when you do turn on the water. This ensures stronger root growth and also lets water soak down to root level. Make allowances for newly applied sod or seeds, which both require consistent surface moisture until the grass can develop a deep root system. If your lawn grows on clayey soil, factor in that it takes longer for water to get absorbed through the soil. Lessen the amount of water you use, decrease the amount of time you water and increase the frequency of watering. This prevents water waste and maximizes absorption.